With short throws, the shifter is typical Honda in its delightful weight and precision, and the clutch pedal's takeup is smooth and linear. In fact, once you're driving the CR-Z, you could easily forget that it's a hybrid at all. The biggest clue comes when you stop, engage neutral, and notice that the engine switches off. It intuitively and quickly restarts as you put the car in gear to move off, and the electric motor shows its low-end torque when starting out on a hill. In every way, though, the manual-transmission CR-Z is the least hybrid-y hybrid ever. Even the brake feel is excellent, with no obvious point of transition between regenerative and friction brakes.
Steering feel is largely absent but, happily, so is torque steer. Sport mode quickens the throttle calibration, alters the assist characteristics of the electric motor, and reduces steering boost, all of which conspire to make the CR-Z even more fun. At low speeds, chassis balance tends toward understeer, but the little Honda's rump becomes more willing to rotate as corner entry speeds increase. The police three counties over will know any time you're misbehaving, though, since the standard all-season Dunlops scream at the very suggestion of hard cornering. Their noise also dominates at highway speeds, where the engine is commendably hushed -- in stark contrast to the Fit, whose short top gear results in lots of racket from under the hood.
The CR-Z's ride quality is impressive for a vehicle with such a short (95.9-inch) wheelbase, and soft dampers allow the suspension to use its full wheel travel on very bumpy pavement, relying on compliant bump stops to soften any hard bottoming out. Unfortunately, this calibration results in a lot of body motions -- the CR-Z will pogo its way over rough back roads with considerable body lean and heave. Its path doesn't seem to be upset by all the vertical motions, but your passenger might be.
If your passenger happens to be familiar with the original CRX, he or she might point out that it wasn't a full-on sports car, either. Like many legends, the CRX's reputation doesn't really reflect what it actually was -- or what it did. You see, the cool-dude hot-hatch image we associate with that 1980s car was for the high-performance model: the CRX Si. It's easy to forget that lesser variants of the CRX combined a reasonable fun-to-drive factor with astonishing fuel economy.